Travel Review: Gate 1 Travel and more!
While planning my trip to Italy I struggled with whether I should book everything myself from my airfare to hotel to tours. A friend visited Italy in early 2017 so I got suggestions from her as well as various places on the web. Another good friend suggested I go with Gate 1 Travel because she travels with them often. After much research, I decided a travel company was the way to go just for the ease of it all.
My initial interaction with Gate 1 Travel was not a good one. I called because I wanted to talk to a human about the trip I was planning to spend thousands of dollars on. The person I spoke to wasn’t helpful in the least. However, I ignored my first mind and ended up calling them again. That interaction was a good one. The person I spoke to when I booked my trip apologized for my first experience and at that point, I felt like Gate 1 Travel was shaping up to be a good choice.
Boy was I wrong!
My trip was for Rome, Florence, and Venice. I wasn’t thrilled about at least one of the hotel choices based on my research but I was going to Italy so I figured I shouldn’t let this get in my way. Even though I went with Gate 1 Travel I decided to leave for my trip before I would link up with the group to get in some other tours. I also scheduled a wine tour during my time with Gate 1 Travel. I was really looking forward to the wine. I’ve been obsessed with the fermented grape juice for more than a year now.
Today I’m talking about my experience with Gate 1 Travel as well as other tidbits I picked up along the way on my tour of Italy.
Let’s start in Rome!
I stayed at Hotel Genova. I honestly cannot recommend this hotel for 2 very strong reasons:
- No hot water/low water pressure/no water/brown water: Have you ever taken a cold shower? I’m sure you probably have but it was likely not by choice. Before the trip, I read reviews on other websites and other travelers had this same issue. Welp! Sure enough, the same problem presented itself during my stay. The management at Hotel Genova said this was due to old pipes and that the entire street was without water/water pressure. After questioning businesses on my side of the street including two restaurants, a bar, and another hotel I found out this was NOT true. Who wants to spend the day sightseeing in the heat and come back “home” to water issues? No one!
- No A/C: The mornings and on a few evenings the weather was cool, however during the day it was warm. No A/C is not acceptable. Also, just because the weather is cooler outside doesn’t mean it translates to cooler inside. If you are someone that is OK with no A/C then I say give it a go. It just wasn’t an option for me.
Italian Breakfast FYI:
By the way, don’t expect breakfast to be the same as the states. I’ve been many places and I’ve eaten everything from tacos to rice for breakfast. Neither of which I’d eat at home but it was fine. The breakfast at Hotel Genova was rough. Breakfast is my favorite meal and the only thing I ate was a banana each morning for my entire stay. Yes, they made the effort to fix an American breakfast with eggs/sausage (not sure what kind of chicken/pig/cow it came from but….)and the like but I quickly realized breakfast is not important in the Italian culture. Dinner is the meal of the day. In Italy, if they have just a shot of strong coffee in the A.M they are good to go.
It wasn’t all bad
The tour manager gets a point for trying to make things better at Hotel Genova. I didn’t understand every word but she put up a good fight with the hotel to make things right. I appreciate her for the effort.
Another good thing is that Hotel Genova is in a prime location. It’s near Termini train station. Think of Termini as Grand Central Station in NYC or Union Station in Washington D.C. Termini has everything from shopping to food to other transit including buses.
Hotel Genova also gets a plus because it was located near two of my favorite dining choices for Rome. Check out the post about food/tours in Rome. One of those choices was a dinner planned by Gate 1 Travel. Like I said, it wasn’t ALL bad.
Included in the package by Gate 1 Travel are guided tours of the highlights like The Colosseum, Roman Forum, Vatican Museum and Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. If you decide to do any of these (you definitely should) make sure you get “skip the line” passes. The line to “skip the line” is long but nothing compared to the other line.
For this part of the trip, I give Gate 1 Travel a C-. Yes, there were good points as outlined but I’m the type of person that if I’m not comfortable in my hotel I’m not comfortable at all. The hotel was the driving force behind this grade.
Now we’re off to Florence
The hotel in Florence was great! The interesting part about the Hotel Adriatico in Florence and Hotel Genova in Rome is that Gate 1 Travel lists both hotels as 4-star. These hotels are very different and even if you don’t travel with Gate 1 Travel, Hotel Adriatico would absolutely be on my list.
Hotel Adriatico is walking distance from prime shopping including major brands like Louis Vuitton and Michael Kors. I wasn’t into shopping at places like this because I can do that at home. Hotel Adriatico was not far from a place that words can’t describe. You must see it for yourself, The Duomo. The Duomo is a church (if you know me “church” doesn’t resonate with me but it’s teachings are not what I’m admiring here) that reminds me of an episode from the Cosby Show, “Once Upon a Time”. I’m not trying to detract from the skill it took to design and build The Duomo so please don’t take it that way. Look at the pic below and then watch the episode. You’ll see what I mean!
Grande Hotel Adriatico is a win for Gate 1 Travel.
For dinner, I ate at Ostaria Dei Centopoveri. I don’t eat red meat and very little pork (only bacon because seriously who can say no to bacon) so I ordered fish. My companion ordered one of the specials for the evening. It was at it’s most basic description (even though my companion said there was nothing “basic” about the taste) beef with a mushroom on top. We also ordered the house red wine. It wasn’t as good as the house red at the restaurant I told you about in Rome but it was a close second. (Note: This meal was NOT included in Gate 1 Travel package but I thought I’d share what I had.)
The following evening the group went to Ristorante “i tre pini”. I can’t tell you what this blue drink tastes like because I had too much wine earlier and almost didn’t make it to dinner. I took a pic of the drink to remember what I couldn’t have. It was water all evening for me. (No judging!)
The meal at this restaurant with the group was much welcomed because it was full of veggies.
At this point of the trip I had fond memories of only vegetables back home but it seemed like a far reach. Ahhh…thankfully it wasn’t. If you decide to eat at Ristorante i tre pini, remember to buy the wine package. Yes, it’s a great deal and I regret I didn’t jump on it.
The tour manager was kind enough to consider the anniversaries and other significant personal events of those on the tour. Those events were celebrated at this dinner which was very thoughtful of her.
The meal at Ristorante “i tre pini” was part of the Gate 1 Travel package and I give this part of the trip an “A”. If you go be ready to almost lose your meal as you drive the winding road to get to/fro.
(Note: I did not take part in any tour offered by Gate 1 Travel in Florence as part of my package. My interest in this region is mostly wine-related which is why I booked a separate wine tour with Grape Tours. There was also a winery tour included in this travel package. I’m getting to that.)
Leaning Tower of Pisa
I don’t know about you but seeing the Leaning Tower of Pisa is naturally on the list for an Italy visit. There’s not much in the area. I did see a very small McDonald’s. No, I didn’t stop. I avoid Mickey D’s in the states so I’m definitely avoiding it traveling abroad. Anyhoo!
One thing that surprised me about the Leaning Tower of Pisa is the two other structures on the same property, Piazza dei Miracoli, and the Pisa Cathedral.
Here’s the problem!
The tour manager gave us no more than an hour to take it all in. Only recently have they allowed people to go to the top of the Tower but unfortunately I was not able to do that because of the limited time frame. Being that this is a highlight for many people I would think Gate 1 Travel would allow more time there but sadly they didn’t.
Sure Assisi is cute but seriously!
This is in stark contrast to the 3 hours spent in a small lesser known town (Medieval Assisi between Rome and Florence). The tour made a stop in this area to tour a church. Assisi is best known as the birthplace of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron Saint of Italy. Yes, this was interesting but if you did a poll of how much time you’d spend in Assisi versus Pisa, I’m sure most would say they’d spend more time in the latter.
The group consensus was that we could’ve cut that one short and spent more time in a more well-known place. I can’t believe they hadn’t heard this until now. It seems Gate 1 Travel would make the change in itinerary.
I give this part of the trip a C-.
I’ll tell you now, this part of the trip gets an A+ for Gate 1 Travel. No, I’m not biased based on the fact that I’ve already told you my interest in the Florence/Tuscany region is all wine. I know this because not a single person in my group was heard complaining.
Fattoria Vino D.O.C. “Il Poggio” was amazing! The guide started by telling us about the property including how they make olive oil.
We tried at least 6 wines including a very sweet dessert wine. I’m not too big on sweets but this was wine with a twist. The twist is that you dunk Cantuccini Alle Mandorle (think biscotti for wine instead of coffee) into the sweet wine. Extra points if you let it soak. Yum!
I bought the Cantuccini Alle Mandorle, sundried tomatoes as well as a bottle of wine. I’ve also contacted them since my trip to ask about getting more wine shipped to me.
Side note: I’ve talked to another winery where I bought wine about the same thing, Casa Emma. If you want to know about that experience my Tuscan Wine Tour with Grape Tours check it out here. To make a long story short, the prices aren’t that bad. It takes a while to get the wine but it’s totally worth it.
Venice, where you at?
These pics are on my walk to the hotel from the tour bus
The view of the Grand Canal from the Bellini Hotel in Venice is breathtaking!
The hotel itself is a bit creepy. Yes, I understand I’m in Italy where most places hold a lot of history. I get that! However, when the walls are covered in a dark fabric and there’s wall art of faces, I find it creepy. FYI breakfast at this hotel was much the same as the others with one exception, mimosas.
The first night in Venice I ate at Trattoria Alla Palazzina.
Trattoria Alla Palazzina was a recommendation from the tour manager. I’m always leary of their recs because I feel like they are paid for the recommendations. IMO! The tour manager described the owner as a Fabio type and someone both the men and women would probably like. She was right! He was very personable. He went to every table. He didn’t even know we were with the tour company but he treated everyone the same. After we ate dinner we told him we were with Gate 1 Travel and he said he had been expecting us and thought we changed our minds. So even though my opinion stands it’s good to know he treated everyone the same regardless.
The following day, the tour included a trip to the Murano glass company. We walked about 10 minutes from the hotel, boarded a boat and were on our way! The trip took about 40 minutes from the hotel. They offered a nice lesson in blown glass but honestly, this is another tourist trap. The glass pieces are very pricey. My mom loves frogs. I usually buy her a frog from every country I visit. I had to go to the area where artisans with fewer years under their belt have their items sold to buy something for her.
After touring the Murano Glass Company the rest of the day was spent in St. Mark’s Square with a guided walking tour. According to Gate 1 Travel, this is what we did: “View the Golden Basilica of San Marco, built over several centuries in a fusion of Byzantine, Roman, and Venetian architecture. See the Bridge of Sighs, created at the beginning of the 17th century to serve as a link between the prisons and the inquisition rooms of Doge’s Palace. Then, continue to visit the pink marble Doge’s Palace, official residence of the Venetian ruler; it’s facade is highlighted by a massive late-Gothic gate, known as the Porta della Carta.”
The tour guide in Rome was the best at describing and explaining the city from start to finish but not-so-much in Venice. I typed out the description above directly from the Gate 1 Travel website because even though I experienced it first-hand, I was still lost. I still tried to answer the question, “why am I here?”.
Overall Venice by far was a fascinating place. It was certainly a treat because think about it, Venice is on water. The only way to get from one island to another is by water. Yes, there are water taxis too! I even saw deliveries on water. So basically instead of the large trucks we see to deliver our parcel packages, it’s on a boat.
Of course, I had to take a gondola ride. It’s a requirement if you visit Venice, right?
The farewell dinner from Venice back home was at the hotel.
Overall I give Gate 1 Travel a C. They didn’t blow me away and I wasn’t totally disappointed. The kicker for me was the first impression. First impressions can be lethal.
Tell me your thoughts. Would anything I mentioned have disturbed you about the Gate 1 Travel? Let’s talk about it!